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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Following Betty Ellis' 1920s Stroll

The Arun drifts soothingly by, carrying chaotic thoughts to the sea, massaging a tired mind. It's one of those curious days where winter winds rub shoulders with summer sun; now the air feels chill, now it feels warm.

Ripening rapeseed rustles in yellow bands scored through green fields of barley shoots. Above High Barn Buzzards ride the thermals, casting menacing shadows far below, twisting and fading and mixing with the clouds.

A derelict cottage and ancient dew-pond clogged with farm debris cut a sorry sight. Who would want to live in such a remote place today, cut off in the heart of Downland, like the old time shepherds? Over these ruins, known as Canada, a mist drifts, the ghosts of another time.

An isolated coombe, nestling in Downland's bosom, hidden, almost secret lifts any mood. Chalky paths, precipitous and deep-cut, worn with age land the other side of the escarpment in Amberley. Unspoilt, desirable, a place to slow the pace, tarry a while. Cottages bear testimony to old trades of bakers and nailmakers, long gone to retail parks and superstore counters, replaced by a new community.

Now fortified by Mr Knight's hoppy liquid a traffic clogged road, once crossed leads to a peaceful lane. In a deep coombe a hidden riverbed rustles with brimstone, peacock and orange-tip butterflies. Moorhen busy with feeding young, partridges patrol the field edges, set to flight by jumpy woodpigeon. Soon Peppering Farm is found again, hedgerows running with dunnock and house sparrows. Nearby summer's first swallow darts across the barley.

Burpham is reached, like Amberley changed little since medieval times outwardly, but the streets are silent, the pub is closed. The dormitory sleeps it's daytime slumber.

A drizzly end, past Splash Farm and into the Woodleighs, where bluebells are starting to peak through the dry soil,  takes a path once used by a king to flee protestant pursuers, but now leads to a dice with death to reach Arundel station.

The detailed route for this walk can be found by clicking here.

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